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Agnosticism != Atheism?

To the user who said: (Removed the word "atheist" from the definitions of Agnostic. They are _not_ the same thing. Most agnostics (even strong ones) are not atheists at all.)

I had to rollback the changes you made. You are incorrect. Agnosticism is a subset of atheism. The page clearly explains why. Just because you might want to call yourself "agnostic" to escape some fear of the "atheist" stigma, does not make it true. You are an atheist. You cannot believe in something when you're not sure if it exists in the first place. Logic 101. --Pile 13:06, 19 October 2007 (CDT)

This *would* be "Logic 101" if language were unambiguous and belief were a binary condition. However, since humans can believe things with varying degrees of certainty, and can in fact believe different things about the same idea in different contexts, it is probably not realistic to equate all the varieties of uncertainty which under the term "agnostic" with atheism. If human beings were perfectly consistent, it might be. But they are not. Whisper 19:43, 3 Sept. 2008
There are both agnostic atheists and agnostic theists. Some believers acknowledge the existence of god(s) is unknown, their idea of a deity is not the direct miracle-causing variety. Agnosticism in that sense is a position on knowledge, not a description of belief. Additionally, "agnostic" is commonly used colloquially to say "I'm not sure what I believe" or "I'm not convinced either way", or "I don't want to call myself an atheist, because people hate atheists". This colloquial use should be described. --Sylvan 11:07, 23 May 2008 (CDT)
The statement above concerning agnostic atheists and agnostic theists is correct given standard definitions of knowledge, belief, atheist and agnosticism. Atheism is the lack of belief, agnosticism is the lack of knowledge (of the acceptance thereof). Knowledge is considered to be a subset of belief (something along the lines of "Justified True Belief"). It is possible to lack knowledge without lacking belief. Therefore it is possible to be an agnostic and a theist. The practical application of this term "agnostic theist" is for those people who claim belief in God, but claim they have no other evidence apart from faith. These are people who accept the lack of knowledge, yet profess the belief. Agnosticism, by this definition, does cover a lot of people, but the term does make the most sense this way. --J(first time here) 19:03, 29 August 2008.

I agree, and I've revised the page to reflect these ideas. --Pile 17:43, 29 May 2009 (CDT)

Strong atheism

I believe that suggesting strong atheism is particularly uncommon, or attacking it as presumptuous suffers from POV. Strong atheists may simply conclude that gods are equally likely to exist as leprechauns. We don't consider it unreasonable to believe leprechauns actually do not exist, as opposed to tentatively lacking belief in them. We may be proven wrong one day, but that doesn't mean we're unjustified in concluding that leprechauns, or gods, are purely fictional.

I'd prefer to see the wording indicate it can be a positive belief in the non-existence of gods, or a conclusion they don't exist based on the lack of evidence for them. It's also the definition that has been used throughout most of history, whereas weak atheism is a more recent philosophical distinction (and one that is epistemologically easier to defend). --Sylvan 11:04, 23 May 2008 (CDT)

ed. response

I agree with you on most points, except I would prefer to stand on the contention that strong atheists are the minority. Maybe I need to cite some figures to back that up.--Pile 11:19, 23 May 2008 (CDT)

I wouldn't be surprised that strong atheists today are in the minority, even though the traditional definition of atheist refers to strong atheism. (If you look at Huxley's original definition of agnostic, he clearly meant to differentiate himself from both theists, who believe without evidence, and atheists, who in his view actively disbelieved with a similar lack of evidence). I just don't believe it's accurate or NPOV to paint strong atheists as "fringe", which seems a bit loaded. This type of editorializing has the appearance of trying to disassociate atheism from strong atheism, or minimize it. Yes, theists incorrectly attempt to place an epistemological burden on (all) atheists by painting them as strong atheists, so it should be clarified that "atheism" in its simplest sense is weak atheism, and that's all any atheist needs to justify: the theists haven't proven their case. Strong atheism however isn't necessarily an "unfounded certainty", since it should be readily acknowledged that one cannot search the universe to disprove that any gods are lurking about. This doesn't mean that strong atheism can't be a rational conclusion, akin to the view that Russell's Teapot most likely doesn't exist.
I've noticed that this somewhat disparaging or narrow view of strong atheism occurs in multiple places throughout the site, it would be nice to see the views of S.A. represented more accurately and neutrally. --Sylvan 13:51, 23 May 2008 (CDT)
Yes, the term "fringe" is loaded and, more importantly, not accurate. In regards to Pile's request for figures, I don't know of any studies that statistically distinguish between strong/weak, but how many atheists assert that the Christian God doesn't exist in America alone? I would guess millions. All of those are strong atheist in regards to the Christian deity. --PQ
I think this is fairly biased against strong atheism as it stands. I definitely think you need some figures to back up the claim that they are a minority. I my experience its the reverse. This is almost certainly due to sampling bias (being a strong atheist, I'm probably going to come into contact / associate with more people who share my beliefs than a pure sampling of the population) - however the same is going to be true of your impression. Unfortunately hard numbers are difficult to come by. The best some googling could come up with was some internet polls (eg this and this) Depending on exactly where you draw the line (ie. what probability counts as believing it to be false), this seems to put strong atheism in the lead (or at least, I'd class "assume he's not there." as equivalent to the definition here of "believes theres no god") Admittedly, random internet polls aren't really any better than personal experience. If there are any better figures, I think they should be cited, otherwise I think it's an overly POV claim, and shouldn't be included unless there's some hard data. Brianm 15:56, 28 May 2009 (CDT)


I've always thought of atheism as the disbelief of gods, not the "lack". A lack of something generally means that it is inadequate or missing something. For instance, a 3 wheeled car "lacks" a wheel. Someone with only 1 leg "lacks" a leg. To suppose that someone who does not believe in gods somehow lacks a belief is to suppose that belief in god is the default position of humanity, when it is clear that new born babies do not believe and develop this belief later in life due to their environment (parents etc).

I think the article should use the proper definition that is used in the majority of dictionaries, which is the "disbelief in gods".

Furthermore, there are several wrong definitions (such as agnosticism, deism, etc) in this article. I suggest a rewrite.

--Adrian Hayter 15:13, 29 August 2008 (CDT)

"Lack" implies (or at least strongly suggests) a deficiency. Regarding deities, all explicit atheists reject belief in them, regardless of whether the further claim is made that it is false that they exist. This rejection might be for insufficient evidence, that the concept is contradictory, that belief is unwarranted, or ... -- 18:04, 12 May 2009 (CDT)

Why is this page locked?

I was going to improve the article but apparently that isn't allowed. What gives? Too much vandalism? Titanium Dragon 23:20, 24 May 2009 (CDT)


Yes, lots of vandalism. If you have suggestions for changes, you can post them here.--Pile 00:02, 26 May 2009 (CDT)

Suggestion for external link

Hello! I've been adding corresponding pages to religioustolerance.org at different religion pages. Since this page is locked I figure I should recommend it in the discussion page! http://www.religioustolerance.org/atheist.htm I think that would make a fantastic external link. Religious tolerance is very good in it's attempted lack of bias, and people wanting to read further would be pleased with it's quality imho. --Keithguh 22:44, 19 June 2009 (CDT)

I actually just wrote something about religious tolerance, what a coincidence. I'm all for linking to yours if you're all for linking to mine. Deal? Db2 17:46, 21 June 2009 (CDT)

Better yet. Add your article here. Search on the page title you want, then select "create page" and be sure to add the appropriate category entries. This whole site is user-submitted content. You can also link your original page too.--Pile 19:45, 21 June 2009 (CDT)

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